Just How Far Afield Health Costs In Wisconsin Have Gotten in 50 Years

Here’s an article from the Green Sheet in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this morning. It recounts the first heart transplant in Milwaukee, way back in 1968.

The procedure, completed by 9:30 p.m. the same day, was the first heart transplant in Wisconsin, and just the 58th worldwide. The operation, The Milwaukee Journal reported on Oct. 22, 1968, made Milwaukee “the sixth or seventh center in the United States where heart transplantation has been accomplished.”

(Betty) Anick went home on Nov. 25, 1968. Exiting the hospital, she was greeted by a score of reporters and photographers.

“I feel wonderful, real happy to go home,” she said, according to The Journal’s Jo Sandin in a front-page story.

We all realized that we were living in an era of a new miracle in medical history…at the time nearly every transplant was reported in the press…now unless it is a celebrity…it goes largely unnoticed by the public at large.

But how far afield have we gotten? Most all of you have had some type of medical procedure performed. Many of you have had friends or family that have visited an emergency room or had out patient or inpatient surgeries performed. Many of you have had children. You know the bills. You know the thousands of dollars involved. You know what you pay and what your insurance company has covered.

What do you think a heart transplant cost in 1968? A procedure that at the time was still highly experimental. One that probably required hours in the operating room and a team of surgeons and support staff? The 58th hear transplant surgery in the entire world? How much?

In December 1968, both papers (The Milwaukee Journal and The Milwaukee Sentinel) reported that all but $252 of the $18,669 hospital bill was covered by John Anick’s Wisconsin Blue Cross from his employer, American Motors.

How far afield have we gotten in the past fifty years on the costs of health care?